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TRIBECA 2024

Crítica: Under the Grey Sky

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- La ópera prima de Mara Tamkovich es un sutil pero convincente retrato de la vida bajo la dictadura en Bielorrusia

Crítica: Under the Grey Sky
Aliaksandra Vaitsekhovich en Under the Grey Sky

Este artículo está disponible en inglés.

Mara Tamkovich’s first full-length effort, which had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, is a deft display of her directorial skills and her artistic taste. Under the Grey Sky [+lee también:
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entrevista: Mara Tamkovich
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was financed by the Polish Film Institute within its special programme – called Microbudget – for first-time helmers. The selected directors work with relatively small grants (up to €250,000) and to a tight schedule – they have about a year to complete the film, after winning the subsidy. These production criteria are important when discussing Tamkovich’s film, as the financial restrictions resulted in some interesting artistic decisions. The scenes were shot mainly in indoor spaces, with natural light and an intimate group of two or three actors. Add some subdued yet juicy performances from her lead actors (Aliaksandra Vaitsekhovich and Valentin Novopolskij) to the aesthetic modesty, and everything comes together to provide us with a softly painted portrait of life under Belarusian ruler Alexander Lukashenko’s regime.

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Instead of showing the big picture and focusing on political mechanisms, the Polish-Belarusian director works on a microscale that facilitates our connection with the story. Lena (Vaitsekhovich) is a TV reporter working for an opposition media outlet, broadcasting the protests that were brutally repressed by the police. As she and her camera operator are tracked down by a drone and arrested, their fate lies in the hands of the state. There are severe punishments for the crime of not being a supporter of the regime, and said price to pay could be as high as a few years in prison.

While Lena is behind bars, we meet her husband, Ilya (Novopolskij). They had been hoping to leave the country together and start anew somewhere else. Now, he has to hide so that he won’t get handcuffed, too, and attempt to learn the fate of his wife and hopefully get her out of jail. The Machiavellian regime has an offer for Lena that would make her release and migration possible, but for a high price, of course…

In a series of flashbacks, Tamkovich shows that Ilya and his wife had different attitudes to what they saw as their duties towards the country, themselves and their relationship. The dilemma of disobedience and fighting for a just cause and for freedom versus everyday conformity is the ethical core of the story, and efficiently creates dramatic tension. And however clichéd it may sound, said dilemma feels universal, as the story is focused on these two central characters, with minimal interference from the dark forces of the Belarusian regime.

The story was inspired by facts, and all of the footage from the protests and from Lena’s sentencing is real; her character was based on the fate of Katsiaryna Andreyeva from Belsat TV. However, this is not a retelling of someone else’s story, but is rather one deriving from it, and the director crafts her own artistic vision in a skilful manner.

Under the Grey Sky was produced by Poland’s Media Corporation, and Loco Films handles its world sales.

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(Traducción del inglés)

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